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Jae Kim: Theory and Practice
JK 22: Thoughts from SJC Edison

April 28, 2010

The message boards are currently in a frenzy about SJC Edison. The tournament at Edison, the 75th and final Shonen Jump Championship, was a yin and yang mixture of delight and distaste. Everywhere I looked, I saw a glorious good that was Counter Countered by a crippling drawback.


Konami has clearly done an amazing job at promoting the game. The attendance figures shattered (and almost doubled) the previous record for premier event attendance. The game is healthy and competitive play has really surged since Konami's takeover of its brand from Upper Deck.


During my brief hiatus from blogging, Konami was just gathering momentum in setting up a proper tournament staff and system. As many of you know, the counterfeiting scandal from Upper Deck occurred about a year before their contract was to expire; Konami was caught off guard and took over the game with no real knowledge of tournament organization and event management. When talking with some of the top level 3 judges at the time, I was told that Julia Hedberg inherited an Organized Play structure that had very little funds and experience. In less than a year, with the help of others, she transformed it into a juggernaut drawing record attendance levels. 

We should be very grateful to all members of Konami, the judging staff, or the coverage team that helped smooth over the transition from Upper Deck without leaving competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! in the dark. While I personally have had my share of differences with many of these people, our game would probably be dead without their hard efforts and contributions. 

The next time you see one of these people (or anyone who seems remotely Konami-affiliated), feel free to wrap them in a bear hug or perform some other act of awkward physical intimacy. They will secretly enjoy the warmth; all of their hard efforts are directed towards making sure Yu-Gi-Oh! players can continue this wonderful hobby. Thank you. 

Generating Some Constructive Feedback 

Many times in the past, concerns about organized play were brought up on unofficial forums (such as Pojo) and then addressed. Examples include the move from a top eight cutoff to a top sixteen, increased prize cards to the top 4 (instead of just the winner), and adjustments to the Forbidden List.  

Konami's leadership seems very progressive and dedicated to growth. Unfortunately, the rounds at SJC Edison were marred by extreme delays. It took about 12 hours to complete eight rounds of swiss due to the immense player pool. And while it is unfair to blame tournament staff or Konami for the delays (the alternative would be to cap entrants), I feel there is a constructive way to fix this.I have assembled a list of concerns from SJC Edison that were relayed to me from players who wanted a voice. Perhaps some of these will be helpful in the future. 

1. Increase Efficiency Through Computerization 

Organized YGO play still sticks to many 90's type conventions that seem to decrease efficiency. As many of you know, match slips at events are printed and then hand cut. Then, the slips are hand distributed by judges walking up and down the aisles. The entire process is rather cumbersome and takes a great deal of time. 

The slips are then returned and verified by hand by a judge. At smaller events, this type of process is viable. Unfortunately, once attendance reaches thousands, it is very difficult to continue the hand-counts without creating immense delays. 

I personally feel Konami should move to a type of kiosk like system. Players could view a projector or receive their seating assignment from the wall. They would then sit with their opponent and play the match.  

Upon completion and judge verification of a match, the players could then travel to the kiosk and sign the result with their COSSY number. The result would automatically be updated into the COSSY system software (or at least easily input by a judge). All of this would take a fraction of the time required to cut and distribute match slips, verify them, and then print out the next set of pairings. 

If kiosks (like the ones you find at airports) are too expensive, Konami could simply use laptops or computers with large displays. A judge or staff member could stand at each laptop and watch the players return and sign their match slip. 

I would estimate these types of developments would save Konami or its organizers immeasurable money in terms of generating revenue through side events, hiring judge staff, renting venue time, and encouraging player participation. If a set of kiosks would cost 800 or so dollars (and be transportable), perhaps four kiosks in total would do the trick. These could be reused and would save the need to bring a printer and extra staff to each event. 

If you can carry a Stardust Dragon statue from event to event, a few computers should be easy! I would estimate about thirty minutes could be shaved off each round (and many, many judges) by implementing a more efficient match system. 

2. Increase Efficiency in Round Pairings 

Players were constantly complaining about the incredibly large lines for pair ups. At all official events, the list of pairings is posted on a wall for players to view (and accept seat assignments). Unfortunately, this system doesn't work when there are five hundred players at each wall. 

The staff only printed one set of pairings for each name bracket. So the A-E bracket, for example, was posted on only one wall and immediately swarmed by hundreds of players. It would be far more efficient to either utilize a scrolling projector (that placed the pairings in large font on a wall) or post multiple pairings sheets for each bracket all over the venue. 

I would estimate about twenty or thirty minutes per round could have been saved by posting more sets of pairings for players to receive seating assignments. 

3. Increase the Match Time to 1 Hour 

It's rather silly at present to play a match in forty minutes (or less) and then wait up to an hour and a half for the next match to begin. With decks growing more and more complex these days, a greater percentage of matches seem to be going to time. I think increasing match time to one hour would be prudent for competitive balance and protect legitimate players against greasy stalling tactics. 

4. Treat Judges like Judges, not Swiss Army Knives 

The forums are currently abuzz about the perceived shortcomings of the judging staff at SJC Edison. Please, please keep in mind that the judge staff was horribly outmanned. One top judge told me the ratio was something like 90 players to 1 judge at certain points during the event. Speaking as an impartial observer, it would obviously be very difficult to instantly decipher the truth in any rulings or match-slip initiated problem. 

Having said that, these problems are clearly the fault of the tournament organizer. Hiring thirty to forty judges is fine; making an excuse such as "way too many people showed up!" is not fine. It would be the equivalent of a store manager only purchasing a set amount of inventory and angering every remaining customer who received shoddier service or none at all! In that scenario, the store manager would be fired for performing such a poor job. 

It's simply unacceptable for players to have to wait in excess of ten minutes for a ruling with no extension time. Indeed, that's the very reason that I lost my round three match (a delay of ten or so minutes with no accompanying extension). The poor judges were running from place to place trying to keep up with the pace of rulings. Also, wasting judges on menial tasks such as double checking match slips, overseeing the video game area, or having to confirm match results seems terribly inefficient considering the judging shortage. 

A good fix would be to hire more judges and take better care of the judges that have done an excellent job. I noticed several incredible judges in street clothes for this event and have heard from other top judges that many have quit due to difficulties with the job. 

Perhaps judges could be organized into pods that are then overseen by an Assistant head judge. That way, a head judge such as Jerome McHale would not have to run all over the building trying to fix an appeal? Your feedback is appreciated; I'm sure Konami would love more suggestions on how to fix this problem. 

Closing Thoughts

I truly feel that implementing some of these suggestions would lead to vast increases in profit for Konami and a more satisfied customer base. I noticed that many side events were very slow to start because of a lack of judges (who were wasting time on printing new sheets and creating paper results for each side event). A computerized system would have likely finished five times the amount of side events. And side events with sixteen to thirty two players each buying product (that they wouldn't otherwise) seems like a great tool for Konami to further growth. 

Please feel free to offer feedback to me or Konami in the Pojo thread. Also, take the time to visit my blog at www.go-ygo.com for more Yu-Gi-Oh! content.




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